Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn – ARGO

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

ARGO movie poster

ARGO is a movie thriller based on Operation ARGO, a CIA undertaking lead by CIA employee Tony Mendez to rescue six US Embassy employees who avoided capture by the Iranian criminals who violated the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez. He is supported by fellow stars Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryon Kranston.

Bayard

George Clooney is one of the producers of this movie, and he makes his mark immediately. ARGO opens with an American apologist historical spin, implying Iran was a happy, thriving utopia right up until big, bad US came in to set up Shah Pahlavi and steal all of the oil. For an actual historical perspective of this time period rather than the fictional version George Clooney offers, see Iran’s Present is Iran’s Past – Part VI, Rise of the Ayatollahs.

Once past the first few historically offensive minutes, ARGO becomes an excellent movie that superbly conveys the intensity of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In 1979, Americans were horrified at the unprecedented savagery of an attack on our diplomatic enclave. Even the ruthless Japanese Empire had not stooped so low during WWII. Across the country, we were united in front of the evening news, watching daily for something positive as the stress of the crisis and the brutal stories from friends and relatives who’d escaped became a constant background tension in our collective psyche as a nation.

image from ARGO movie

The escape of the six to Canada was a vital success for the West. It not only gave us hope through the long months of that untenable situation, but it renewed our faith in our good neighbors to the north, along with our other genuine allies. ARGO successfully captures the barbarity of the attack to Westerners and to decent Iranians, as well as the intensity of what the hostage crisis and the escape of the six meant to America.

One thing I appreciate most about ARGO is the sarcastic humor, which is expertly laced through the movie. There are some actual laugh-out-loud moments, usually thanks to Arkin and Goodman, that are just enough to prevent the dark subject matter from becoming overwhelming.

Overall, I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed ARGO, and I would definitely recommend it.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, image from ARGO movie

Holmes

I enjoyed the movie and I am glad I saw it. The story line does not completely follow reality and, fortunately, a few key players are left out of the movie version. Affleck was not attempting to produce a CIA training manual; he was trying to create a watchable movie and he succeeded. He and the producers can be forgiven, and in fact thanked, for not being completely accurate.

Before I give kudos to the folks who made the movie a success, I should take a moment to express my humble but heartfelt gratitude to then Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Pat, Canadian Immigration Officer John Sheardown, the Government of Canada, the Embassy and Government of Sweden, and several other brave souls, including Iranians, who will remain unknown. Without their moral and physical courage, the movie would not have been made because the six Americans who escaped the attack on the US Embassy would likely not have survived.

image from US State Department, public domain

As for the movie version of what occurred, I congratulate Ben Affleck for a very good job of acting and directing. Ben, you DON’T look like Tony Mendez, and I’m sure that will help Tony keep his personal life peaceful.

Alan Arkin did what Alan Arkin always does. He’s believable and humorous. Arkin and John Goodman combine to add a great touch to the movie. They play a couple of Hollywood insiders who conspire to help the CIA pull off the unlikely mission. Their performances alone are enough reason to see this movie. To those who follow Hollywood, it might seem implausible that anyone from that world would ever help the CIA. But Hollywood did just that on both this and other occasions, proving not everyone there is a self-absorbed, ignorant degenerate. There are decent people there, as well.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin, image from ARGO movie

The acting was well done all the way through the movie, including those bearded bad guys and the screaming imbeciles in the streets. You might feel a need to cluster bomb them throughout the film, but that just proves they are doing a good job of acting. Leave your cluster bombs and any other heavy weapons at home, please.

The editors did a fine job of weaving in a bit of historical footage without causing the usual brain twist that we normally suffer when historical footage is inserted in a movie. The lighting, sound, and camera work were perfect.

If you want a historical documentary, this isn’t it, but it’s still close enough for the documentary seekers to watch since no good documentaries are available for the events depicted.

As a cranky old spook, it’s often difficult for me to sit through a “spook drama” but I enjoyed this film. Fellow Yankees fans should momentarily forgive the Red Sox fan Affleck his many sins, both real and imagined, and enjoy this tense thriller. I can’t promise that you will be thrilled, but you should be well entertained. However, reasonable and responsible parents should not bring children under twelve to have them frightened by this movie.

Tony Mendez and President Jimmy Carter, image from cia.gov

Holmes and I give ARGO a qualified .44 Magnum rating, which is our highest level of cinematic esteem. It won’t actually change your life unless you happen to experience some sort of spiritual epiphany while in the bathroom at the theater or with your significant other in a dark theater parking lot. But this movie can somewhat illuminate one’s historical perspective, and it can certainly entertain a wide audience.

Have fun at the theater, and don’t get caught being socially inappropriate in the parking lot.

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Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

By Piper Bayard

That’s it. I’m in love with Canada. Genuinely a land of Northern efficiency and Southern hospitality.

We spent most of the past two weeks on Vancouver Island, in Victoria and on the shore outside of Sooke. The full moon reflecting off the Strait of Juan de Fuca was worth the trip in itself. The best of both civilization and the wild in a land where vast tracts of mountain forest drop straight down to the sea.

I learned many things in this place where earth, sky and water converge.

This calls for a list.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

  1. It takes approximately 39 hours for Americans to add “eh” to their vocabularies.
  2. Poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a food group.
  3. Residents of the Vancouver Island coast have driveways so steep you could use them to teach raccoons to climb trees.
  4. The ocean can transform from surreally perfect glass to “Oh, hell! How’d I end up on Deadliest Catch?” in approximately 30 minutes.
  5. The waves of an incoming tide will mesmerize you like online games and, like online games, can leave you wondering where you put the last five hours of your life.
  6. Seeing a killer whale up close in the wild is worth every bit of the sandblasting rain you endure to get to it.
  7. A fifteen pound halibut can win two throws out of three against a six foot woman.
  8. Snorkeling in Victoria Harbor is an excellent argument for snorkeling in the Caribbean.
  9. The friendly common greeting and farewell of Canadian island children is to moon arriving and departing guests as the ferry passes.
  10. Canadians do not consider it friendly for ferry passengers to moon the children in return.
Overall, it was a pocket of time with my family so precious that a part of me will always live there. Click on the tab Vancouver Island 2012 above for a few of my favorite photos. And yes. It was overcast most of the time, but that didn’t bother this desert refugee one bit.

Have you ever been to The Great White North? What fun and interesting things have you learned in your travels?

I’m happy to say that HOLMES IS BACK! We will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while we work on our spy thriller, Blood Truffles, so keep an eye out for more current events, history, and side-stitching sarcasm.

All the best to all of you for a week of beautiful moons.